My adorable girlfriend Hiromi was the first one to flash me the New Manicure. Did Kimora Lee Simmons and Jacob the Jeweler get together for her hand job? They wish they had, sweeties. Truth be told, Hiromi had just introduced me to the latest craze in Japanese beauty: the extreme manicure make-over. Fasten your seat belts!

As I soon discovered, there are many different "schools" in nail customization. The strongest trend in the nail world is that of sweets, i.e. nails painted like deluxe cup cakes. Then there's erotic imagery -- nails resembling garter belts, panty hose or fine lingerie (imagine a nail edged with white ruffles!!!). The Indian jewelry theme is incredibly popular (lots of rhinestones and charms clipped onto the nail), followed by Hawaiian flower designs (very young and pop-y) and of course, the more traditional Japanese aesthetics (think pretty kimono).

This new art form was developed as another accessory for die-hard style-obsessed Japanese teens and has evolved into its own artistic and cultural phenomenon. I was soon to meet Yumi, an adorable-looking veteran Japanese manicurist based in New York. "Since I was a child," Yumi said, "I always loved makeup and nail art. Later on, while in beauty school, I worked in Anna Sui's makeup department in Japan and developed my skills." Yumi then enlightened me with the cold, hard facts: You can get anything done, but it will take between three to four hours to do it right. The name of the game is acrylic; that's the basic tool of the trade (besides years of experience); the other is a fine paintbrush. The pro will sculpt said acrylic with the brush into the design of your choice (I've already done pink bows with pearls and strawberries with diamonds) on a perfectly shaped and lacquered nail. While it takes a while, the job will last four to six weeks. The quality is just that top notch.

A good "nailist" (expert manicurist) owns an array of colored acrylic powders and a gazillion choices of minuscule rhinestones, pearls and lace to accessorize. She also carries her "bible," with her at all times: the magazine Nail Venus. I gagged with excitement when I first saw it! Nail Venus is monthly periodical that features the latest themes in nail art with profiles of the top manicurists -- professionals who have developed styles and trends and have become stars in their own right. Indeed, many experts are paid to travel with pop stars who refuse be seen without their precious tips. In a nutshell, nail art is pretty much like the new underwear; it shows and tells. Trop sexy for words!!!

P.S.: Sorry, Yumi only does private house calls!

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